David Coulthard has argued it is far from out of the question that Michael Schumacher will come back out of retirement to compete in Formula 1 again in the near future, insisting if you're committed enough you're good enough.

The Scot - who became the oldest and second-most experienced driver on the grand prix grid following Schumacher's decision to hang up his helmet at the end of the 2006 campaign - was speaking about the German's scintillating testing return at Barcelona last month, when the seven-time world champion drove a Ferrari in anger for the first time in more than twelve months - and promptly proved untouchable at the top of the timesheets.

"Michael still earns several million dollars a year from Ferrari to be a tester, advisor and promoter," Coulthard said, "so he still earns more than a lot of the drivers racing - certainly more than Lewis Hamilton earned this year as a paid Formula 1 driver.

"It's important to keep that in mind - he's not doing it for the good of his health or for charity, he's doing it because he's a businessman and that's how he earns his money. There are worse things to do of an afternoon than go and drive a Formula 1 car quickly around Barcelona, especially when it doesn't actually matter whether you're one tenth quicker or one tenth slower. I would say he's doing it for a mixture of pleasure and business reasons.

"Could he come back in a year's time and race? Of course he could. If you've got that great talent, unlike in soccer or other athletic sports where you might lose the ability to get to the ball before someone else, in motorsport it's more about your hand-eye-brain co-ordination and commitment than it is about the physical aspect. Just look at the sort of drivers that have won championships - I mean, no one could claim that [Nigel] Mansell was the fittest guy, but he was committed and he was strong and he got into the best car and did the job."

Schumacher may not be able to keep away from the sport that rewarded him so generously over the years, but one driver who may find he has to in 2008 is Fernando Alonso, for whom another door seemingly closed yesterday as Honda made it clear there was no room at the inn for the Spaniard. With a much-hyped return to former team Renault hinging on today's World Motor Sports Council hearing in Paris, and Red Bull Racing and Toyota both denying they are ready for a double world champion just yet, Alonso could find himself with nowhere left to go.

"It's a tricky one for him," Coulthard agreed. "If he left [McLaren] because he felt he wasn't winning enough, he now doesn't have the option to be with McLaren or Ferrari, and based on this year's performance they were the only two winning teams. It's going to be quite difficult now to get a car that he's going to win races in, so I don't quite understand the strategy.

"I can understand that he wasn't happy there, and therefore you've got to follow your heart and your head. He was in a difficult situation I think from the British media point-of-view, because it obviously coincided with the emergence of Lewis in Formula 1 and his great achievements, so he probably got more of a rap and a hard time from them than he would have done otherwise. That said, it still is a slightly strange way to manage your career.

"It's going to be interesting. He's obviously got limited options, so we just have to be patient and see where he decides to go. Clearly he's a talented driver, and it's just a question of who can accommodate him. Time will tell ultimately where he ends up.

"I don't think it would be a problem for him to take a year out - [Alain] Prost was the last guy to do that, and he came back and won the world championship. If you can get yourself into one of the best two cars, then of course you've got a great chance of winning the championship."



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